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Thailand: A weekend of awe

world heartOut of the vault –

Showing Awe

I had the pleasure of seeing two different events this weekend where a young child felt or showed an overwhelming feeling of reverence or awe. One event was beautiful, and one was a simple everyday event.

As the breeze came off the ocean, a small little girl grabbed a towel and snuggled down into a beach chair. Suddenly the sky overhead burst into bright colors and beautiful showers of fireworks. She said, “Oh, Ahh” and her chin dropped leaving her mouth speechless. We all enjoyed the fireworks for the King of Thailand’s birthday. Her father explained what was going on in Thai and she pressed her palms together near her chest and completed the wai. The wai is a unique, graceful action practiced throughout Thailand. It plays an essential part in showing respect and is central to Thai etiquette.

Being American, I have had many opportunities to experience fireworks and at times have felt awesome feelings of respect for what they were being shown as part of a celebration. Events such as the ‘Tahoe Blue Fireworks Festival” at Incline Village, NV the summer after 911 or the fireworks over Cape Town, South Africa to celebrate Nelson Mandela presidential win after serving 27 years in prison on Robben Island. It was hard to find words to show my appreciation and respect.

This little one said it best. Sometimes being speechless is a perfect choice.

Earlier in the day, I ran into a small boy who had the same sort of wonderment over an escalator. He was either running across the hotel lobby to get to the stairs or weaving wildly from the top landing of the stairs to us below. My favorite moment was when he stopped directly under the sign that stated that children had to be attended. We certainly had our attention on him, but I don’t think that was what the ‘attended’  sign meant.

Teaching emotions

Children love escalators so you can easily use them to explain how emotions can vary in intensity and change.  All children can work on building their emotional vocabulary. I set up the story with these examples:

Do you ever go on those moving stairs in a big building? We are going to look at these six emotions and see how they work with each other. Let’s make this our “ground floor.” You are on the ground floor.  Here are six emotions that are in ABC order. Let’s put them on the emotion escalator.

The child receives these words on individual index cards, anxiety, comfort, confident, discomfort, hope, and worry. I read each word as I hand it to him.

“Make them into two piles. You will have one group that is going down the escalator. Things you worry about or things that bother you.”

I use the exact word “worry,” so this can guide your child since this is the first time he has been introduced to the emotion escalator. Watch him shuffle the cards and answer any questions he has about the words.  Work together to show how on the ground level you can choose to go up to comfort or move down to discomfort.

Going down you find after discomfort comes worry and then anxiety.  When you are back on the ground level, you can head up to comfort again, and then you can get to hope and move on up to confident. Use words that imply you have a choice in which way you move and to take ownership of your own emotions.  Children love to move the index cards around. Some children even take small dolls to travel up and down the emotion escalator. One child colored the lower levels red and the upper levels green.  She made a colorful flower garden on the ground level and a rainbow on the top floor. She got this example and personalized it.

How do you learn?

When I talk about their “learning” in class, I use five emotion cards: boredom, curiosity, fascination, indifference, and interest. It is important to highlight to your child that when she is feeling indifferent during a school lesson that she has to be very careful to not slip down into boredom because this means she is switched off learning. I had a young girl yell out across the crowded playground, “Ms. Julia, I was indifferent, but I didn’t go to boredom.”   She was a very proud five-year-old that was struggling to learn her ‘home language’.  She had mastered English but was behind in her home language and found these classes hard to stay focused in.

When working in a school, learning is always an important focus.  I have kids think about how frustration then confusion and on up to puzzlement puts us on the ground level of our building.  When we go upstairs, we get insightful on up to enlightened and then the top floor is euphoric. These are hard words for many children but using the emotion escalator, they really understand them and enjoy learning new ways to express how they are feeling. I encourage them at confusion to talk to their teacher, so they don’t go down to frustration. This is their choice, to get help or get stuck in the basement.

Awe can be a hard emotion to explain. Start with terror at the lowest level. Move up to dread. Then travel up to apprehension. You are on the ground floor.  Now move up to calm, then up to enchanted. The next level up is enthralled. The top floor is awe.

My weekend was full of young children who experienced enchantment. They were enthralled.  Their faces were full of awe.

Being five is great!

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